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October 17, 2011


Focus On Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning theory states that students learn best when they can encourage and tutor each other, when they are held individually accountable, when they all participate about equally, and when there is a great deal of interactive engagement.

Maplewood Richmond Heights Elementary began implementing cooperative learning into their daily instruction this year.  However, many MRHE teachers have participated in the Kagan Cooperative Learning Training over the past five years because they recognized the importance of making this teaching and learning model a part of our learning culture.

Third grade teacher Janine Lillard  is one of 10 MRH Elementary educators who attended a five day Kagan Cooperative Learning Professional Development training over summer break. She is now sharing her wisdom and positive experiences with the MRH Elementary teaching staff as a coach and Cooperative Learning Team co-leader. “We take pride in providing students with an equitable education where they are set-up for success,” says Lillard. “We believe that students learn best when they are engaged, are personally connected to the learning experience, are held to high expectations, and are learning how to become high-functioning individuals in today’s society. Kagan Cooperative Learning is built upon the four principles of (1) positive interdependence, (2) individual accountability, (3) equal participation, and (4) simultaneous interaction. These principles ensure students are all reaching their full potential while developing life-long social skills.”

Cooperative Learning is a well-researched teaching strategy where small teams, each with students of different ability-levels, use different learning activities to improve their understanding of academia. Each member of a team is responsible for learning what is taught and for helping teammates learn. This creates a successful atmosphere of achievement. Students work through assignments and activities until all group members successfully understand and complete the material.

Students who learn in a cooperative learning environment:

  • Gain from each other’s efforts (Your success benefits me and my success benefits you.)
  • Recognize that all group members share a common fate. (We all sink or swim together here.)
  • Know that one’s performance is mutually caused by oneself and one’s team members. (We cannot do it without you)
  • Feel proud and jointly celebrate when a group member is recognized for achievement. (We all congratulate you on your accomplishment!)

“Engaging students in this manner will really prove to be invaluable when we see how much they are on-task and learning,” says Principal Tony Arnold. “The entire ‘feel’ of our school is changing. I am hearing students shout out team cheers to motivate each other…seeing students smiling when they are engaged in a task that would normally be ‘boring’ to them, team handshakes and better social skills with listening.”

From Traditional to Cooperative Learning

From... To...
A good class is a quiet class Learning involves healthy noise
Keep your eyes on your paper Help your partner solve it
Sit quietly Get up and look what others did
Talking is cheating Verbalize to learn

While there will still be a place for the traditional learning model in MRH Elementary classrooms, we are working on transforming much of our instruction to a cooperative learning model.

Email Dr. Tony Arnold ( , Ms. Janine Lillard (, or Mrs. Courtney Mueller ( for additional information. 


For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.